Types of sociological research.

Lecture summary

In the academic discipline “Sociology”

Section 2. – “Empirical Sociology”

The lecture will cover four questions:

1. Structure and functions of empirical research in sociology

2. Quantitative methods of sociological research

3. Qualitative methods of sociological research

4. Organization of sociological research in the social sphere

Structure and functions of empirical research in sociology

Types and functions of sociological research

Sociological research.

In its most general form, sociological research can be defined as a system of logically consistent methodological, methodical, and organizational-technical procedures linked by a single goal: to obtain reliable data on the social phenomenon or process being studied.

Sociological research includes four organizationally autonomous and at the same time meaningfully interconnected stages:

• methodological and methodological preparation of the study;

• collection of primary sociological information;

• computer processing of the collected information;

• mathematical and meaningful analysis of the processed information, report preparation, formulation of conclusions and recommendations.

Types of sociological research.

A specific type of sociological research is determined by the nature of the goal set in it, the tasks put forward.

1. Depending on the depth of the analysis of the subject , the complexity of the tasks to be solved, there are three main types of sociological research: exploratory, descriptive and analytical.

Intelligence research is the simplest type of concrete sociological analysis. It solves tasks that are very limited in content, covers, as a rule, small surveyed populations and is based on a simplified program and methodological tools compressed in volume.

This type of research can be used either as a preliminary stage of deep and large-scale research, or to collect “rough” information about the object of study. Such a need arises especially often when the subject of sociological research belongs to the category of little or not studied at all. In particular, exploratory research is successfully used to obtain additional information about the subject and the object, to clarify and correct hypotheses and tasks, methodological tools and the boundaries of the surveyed population in an in-depth, large-scale descriptive or analytical research, as well as to identify difficulties that may be encountered during their implementation.

In carrying out the listed auxiliary tasks, intelligence research serves as a supplier of operational sociological information. In this case, we can talk about such a variety as an express survey, the purpose of which is to identify people’s attitudes to current events and facts (public opinion probing), as well as the effectiveness of various activities. For example, with the help of express surveys, audience satisfaction with the quality of the lecture, the content and form of the lesson is determined. They are often used to assess the course and results of socio-political campaigns, in particular, election campaigns.

Usually , intelligence research uses one of the most accessible methods for collecting primary sociological information (for example, an interview or questionnaire), which allows it to be carried out in a short time. At the same time, if we are talking about clarifying the subject or object of a large-scale study, it is appropriate to resort to a targeted analysis of the literature, as well as to a survey of specialists (experts) who are competent in the field under study or who know the features of the object well. For the same purpose, an intensive group interview using the “focus group” method can be conducted.

Descriptive research is a more complex type of sociological analysis. According to its goals and objectives, it involves obtaining empirical information that gives a relatively holistic view of the phenomenon under study, its structural elements. Such a study is carried out according to a complete, sufficiently detailed program, using methodically tested tools. Its reliable methodological equipment makes it possible to group and classify the elements of the object under study according to those parameters that are identified as significant in connection with the problem under study.

Descriptive research is usually used when the object of analysis is a relatively large community of people with diverse characteristics. This may be a team of a large enterprise, which employs people of different professions and age groups, with different work experience, education level, marital status, etc., the population of a city, district, region, region, country. In such situations, the allocation of relatively homogeneous groups in the structure of the object allows one to evaluate, compare and compare the characteristics of interest, to identify the presence or absence of links between them.

Analytical research is the most complex type of sociological analysis, which aims not only to describe the structural elements of the phenomenon under study, but also to clarify the reasons that underlie it and determine the prevalence, stability or variability and other features inherent in it. Because of this purpose, the analytical study has a particularly great practical value.

If in the course of a descriptive study it is established whether there is a connection between certain parameters of the studied social phenomenon, then in the course of an analytical study it turns out whether the discovered relationship is of a causal nature. In the first case, one may be interested, for example, in the presence of a relationship between employee satisfaction with the content of the work performed and its productivity, and in the second case, whether satisfaction with the content of labor is the only, direct or indirect reason that determines the level of its productivity.

Since the reality of our life is such that it is practically impossible to single out and study in its “pure form” any one factor influencing it, almost every analytical study considers a set of factors, from which the main and non-main, temporary and stable, obvious and hidden (latent), controlled and uncontrolled factors.

The preparation of an analytical study , including the careful development of the program and tools, takes a lot of time. The necessary preliminary information about certain aspects of the object and subject being studied, which allow choosing the best ways for their further in-depth analysis, is often collected using reconnaissance or descriptive research.

According to the methods of collecting sociological information, analytical research is complex. In it, complementing each other, various forms of questioning, document analysis, and observation can be used. Thus, an analytical study differs significantly not only in the content of the preparatory stage and the stage of collecting primary information, but also in approaches to summarizing and explaining the results.

An independent kind of analytical research is a social experiment . Its implementation involves the creation of an experimental situation by changing (to one degree or another) the usual conditions for the functioning of the object of interest to the researcher. In the course of the experiment, special attention is paid to the study of the “behavior” of those factors included in the experimental situation that give the given object new properties.

The implementation of a social experiment requires special knowledge and methodological skills. The decision to conduct an experiment must be balanced and justified.

2. Depending on the method of collecting empirical data , a distinction is made between survey, observation and analysis of documents.

A survey is the most common type of sociological research and at the same time the most widely used method of collecting primary information. It involves an appeal to the direct bearer of the problem under study and is aimed at those aspects of it that are little or not amenable to direct observation. That is why a sociological survey is indispensable when it is necessary to reveal the content characteristics of social, group and individual consciousness, social, group and interpersonal relations, which make themselves felt only under certain conditions.

There are two main types of sociological survey: interviewing and questioning .

Interviewing involves personal communication with the interviewee, in which the interviewer asks questions and records the answers. It can be direct (“face to face”) and indirect (telephone interview).

During the survey , the respondent himself fills out the questionnaire with or without the presence of the questionnaire. According to the form of conducting, it can be individual or group, full-time or absentee. The most common forms of the latter are: mail survey, press survey (through a newspaper, magazine), surveys on Internet sites.

Depending on the source (carrier) of primary sociological information, there are mass and specialized surveys. In a mass survey , the main source of information is demographic, socio-professional, ethnic, religious and other groups of the population, identified on the basis of signs that are relevant from the point of view of the problem under study. Participants in such surveys are commonly referred to as respondents . In specialized surveys , the main source of information is competent persons whose professional activities are closely related to the subject of study or whose theoretical knowledge and life experience allow them to make authoritative conclusions and give comprehensively balanced assessments. Their participants are called experts, and the polls themselves are called expert polls.

Sociological observation is a purposeful systematized fixation by the researcher of the properties and features of a phenomenon. As forms and methods of fixation, a form or diary of observation, a camera, a video camera, etc. are used.

The specificity of observation as a type of research and as a method of collecting primary information lies in the analysis and reproduction of the process in all its diversity, versatile impressions about the object under study, relating to behavior, gestures, facial expressions, expression of emotions of individuals and entire groups. Observation can be used to study the activity of the population at electoral meetings, the activity of the lecture audience, participants in mass socio-political events, the behavior of young people in informal communication, etc.

When analyzing documents , text messages serve as a source of sociological information. They are contained in various documents: protocols, reports, resolutions and decisions, publications of newspapers, magazines, letters, works of art, illustrations. This method allows you to obtain information about past events, the direct observation of which is no longer possible. The study of documents where certain phenomena of life were recorded for many years makes it possible to determine the trends and dynamics of their change and development.

3. Depending on whether the subject of research is considered in statics or in dynamics , two more types of sociological research are distinguished – point and repeated.

Spot research (it is also called one-time) provides information about the state of the object of analysis, about the quantitative characteristics of a phenomenon or process at the time of its study. Such information is called static, since it reflects, as it were, an instant “cut” of the quantitative parameters of the object and does not answer the question about the trends in its change.

Data reflecting changes in the object can only be obtained as a result of several studies based on a single program and tools and carried out sequentially at certain intervals. They are called repetitive . We are talking about a means of comparative sociological analysis, which is aimed at revealing the dynamics of the object under study.

Re- collection of information can take place in two, three or more stages. The duration of the interval between the initial and repeated stages is very different, because social processes have unequal dynamics and cyclical changes. Often, it is the properties of the object that prompt the time intervals for repeated studies. For example, if the trend of realization of professional attitudes of secondary school graduates is being studied and they were interviewed for the first time before the final exams, then it is obvious that the next time for a second survey is no earlier than September-October, when those who did not enter the university are trying to get a job.

A special kind of repeatedpanel study . If, with the help of a regular re-study, for example, the totality of respondents is studied, regardless of how their composition has changed over the period between the initial and repeated stages, then the panel provides for repeated appeals to the same persons at specified time intervals. Therefore, it is advisable to observe intervals that allow to maintain the stability of the population in terms of its size and composition to the maximum extent.

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